Tuesday, February 23, 2021

The Kitchen Front



 The Kitchen Front: A Novel The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan

World War II is being over mined for story topics and recently I’ve said that there has to be something different about a book to make me interested in yet another story set in the war. Hopefully, I’m not being a snob about it but really, there are a lot of them now. One thing I’ve always been interested in more than the names of generals and dates of battles is how real people were managing. What was it like at home? What was it like to cope, to go without, to band together? I am not sure we could do it anymore but at one time people did.

The Kitchen Front spoke to me completely. How do you feed a family with rationing? How creative did a cook have to be? Apparently, very creative! Not one smidgen of anything was wasted. Substitutions and compromises were your only tool. An adult received 4 slices of bacon, no more than 2 pounds of minced meat, a 2 inch cube of cheese, 8 tablespoons of margarine, four tablespoons butter, 3 pints of milk, 1 cup of sugar, 4 tablespoons of jam, 2 ounces of tea, one egg plus 1 packet of dried egg powder and 3 ounces of sweets per week. Not rationed but hard to find were sausages, fish, vegetables, flour and bread. Canned foods could only be purchased with the extra point monthly ration. Obviously creativity was important. A home garden was essential, living in the country gave the added advantage of fresh fish and wild fowl.

With this in mind, the BBC radio program called The Kitchen Front sponsored a contest to encourage creativity in cooking and the four women who entered were given the tasks of creatively preparing three courses. The prize is a spot on the program promoting ration cooking. A real job!

Audrey is a young widow trying to keep her home. Lady Gwendoline is Audrey’s sister but married to money and miserable. She would like to find a way to get out from under his control. Nell is a kitchen maid to Lady Gwendoline’s kitchen. She wants a life. Period. Zelda is a professional chef in a man’s world...and kitchens. She wants to prove a woman can be a professional and respected.

The four women are the four contestants, they spend the spring and summer prepping, planning and cooking their entries into the contest. One of them realizes her dream.

The story is predictable in the characters, each woman representing the many, but they carry the story in their mixing bowls as the most interesting is the actual cooking with the ingredients found and acquired and the substitutions needed to camouflage. How do you make something that would impress the judges, be on the ration list, and something the Ministry of Food was promoting? Well, how about whale?

I loved this and have been waiting for a book that features the challenges of home front.


Friday, February 19, 2021

Chocolate and peanut butter

 A day for trying a new project.  I saw a post for peanut butter cups and remembered I had something from our retreat chef that was similar but different .  I combined the two and came up with this today.  

The post recipe looked too gooey, and maybe it wouldn't have been but it just looked like it.  It also had a lot of sugar:  powdered sugar, brown sugar, butter, peanut butter, I couldn't see where there was anything to hold it together.  So.  I took out Chef Sharon's recipe and added a lot of chopped peanuts.

Again, I didn't measure I just dumped a bunch into the little food chopper and turned it on. When they looked like grit I stopped. I wanted the texture.  Then I added peanut butter, a mere fraction of the powdered sugar, no brown sugar, half of a stick of melted butter, vanilla, and stirred it up.   Put it in a parchment lined pan and into the freezer.
Then melted a bag of milk chocolate chips and a cup or so of semi-sweet chips.
Covering anything in chocolate is always messy.  For me at least.  I wasn't going for looks this time, it was an experiment.
They turned out very well if I do say so myself.  Elizabeth stopped over and said for her taste they tasted good but she would want the peanuts ground down a bit more because she didn't like the texture quite that much.  I bought a bag of Reese's peanut butter cups for "research purposes" only and we compared. Even though she suggested improvements (that's why we call them experiments) she said, "yes, I want to take them home!"

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Swapping Circles

 A long time ago, maybe almost two years ago I was making lots of yo-yos and Friend Susan in Australia said she needed to do a yo-yo project but ugh, the making of enough of them to actually do something with was...ugh. So I put mine in an envelope and sent them to her.  It was a start. 

Then one day, a surprise arrived in the mail from Susan. She sent this center, a totally out of my comfort zone, not a lot in my stash to work with these colors center piece but I dug around, came up with enough of something that looked pretty darn good with these half circles,

Added a funky bird or two to make it more like me and I think it worked very well.  I don't like a heavily quilted quilt.  I quilt lightly and here I just took a cookie cutter and traced circles to keep with the circley thing going in the middle.

After I had the top applique done I folded it up and it sat on a shelf for almost the two years.  I know in quilt time two years is practically nothing.  I have fabric in my stash that's at least 20 years old but once I start something it's kind of a rule with me to finish it.  My thing is: " if you liked it enough to make the top you have to like it enough to finish it." So I took it out and quilted it and here it is, Susan!  How are the yo-yos coming?

Saturday, February 13, 2021


 Last summer when I was showing the girls the rudimentary points of hand piecing I introduced them to Jack first.


 I told them, "This is your best friend.  You will use him often. His name is Jack.  Jack the Ripper. I always know where he is."

Last week I thought I'd give a go to a big square quilt.  A quick project, simple design, shouldn't take too long.
 And it didn't.  At first.  Just a day to do what would have taken most of you a couple of hours.  Took me a day but it's ok.  I have nothing but time.

I finished it, ironed it, let it sit for awhile but just couldn't get it into my head that it was ok.  I didn't like that upper right corner of two blocks.  The pink wasn't right.  I called Friend Marilyn and told her I was sending a photo to her, to look at it and tell me what was wrong.  She said, upper right corner, two blocks.  OK. We agree.  If I was going to like this simple and quick project in colors I like, I had to fix it.

How long would it have taken YOU to rip out two blocks, put two new pinks in and reattach them?  An hour?   Me?  Three and a half.  Oh, man. I used Jack and took out those two.  Cut new fabric and attached them to their greens.  So far, so good.  But then cutting the other two on that top row out and reattaching them to the fixed squares and sewing the row back on...well, now it gets interesting.  I won't go into the details but it wasn't pretty and PH heard some words coming from the dining room.  Now it reads better and makes sense and I like it.  I'll iron it and fold it up and put it on the to-be-quilted pile.

I need a nap.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Scratch That Itch

 Do you ever just get a bee in your bonnet and can't let go?  I had a vision of a pizzelle iron I had many years ago. I know in the many moves I didn't let it go.  I know I used it and kept it but darned if I can find it anywhere.  I even called the grand girls to come over and get down on the kitchen floor and reach way back in to the dark recesses of the cupboards to see if it was there.  I know it wasn't in the storage room in the garage.  I also know I would not have let it go.  They didn't find it either. They even got back up from the floor.  I'd still be down there all these weeks later. 

So the idea hummed for a few weeks, I pinned pizzelle recipes and kept looking.  Amazon. Cooking supply stores.  Reviews.  I was possessed with pizzelles. 

Yesterday PH and I went inside a department store for the first time in a year.  I tend to wander away from him when we go in to stores and I did again.  I wandered over to the appliances, just looking at nothing but there it was. A little thing.  Electric.  Price was so low I brought one up to the counter just as PH was checking out and discovered it was even lower because he had a 30% off coupon.  Well, hey, for less than $10  I couldn't have bought a dozen pizzelles in a bakery for that price. I'd take this one home and scratch that pizzelle itch

So today I gave it a go.  I was going to have the impeachment trial going in the background, a new quilt project to cut out, why not juggle with three balls?

 I expected something like pancake batter but nope, it was more like a a sticky cookie dough.

I took a dozen down to the street to the girls and kept this dozen for us (me.)
New colors picked for a new project via Australia Donna.  I'm making mine a little smaller than hers because there's a point in sizing that a quilt can just be too big for my hand quilting comfort.  

So that's all I got!  Still no vaccine for us and still pretending to be patient. 

Thursday, February 4, 2021



    Way back when life was normal and we actually thought we were going to quilt retreat at our heavenly place Friend Barb threw down the gauntlet and challenged us to make a basket quilt.  This particular basket. She made templates for all of us and sent them in the mail.  It didn't have to be big, she said, it could be small as a pillow but hey, she said, let's do this!  So, being a good sheep I jumped on board and made 84 of these things thinking quilt.  Well, there's something about on-point setting that doesn't compute in my brain.  I laid them out on our bed and it worked just fine.  I numbered the rows, picked them up and when it came time this week to attach them to each other, now that the butterflies are done, I COULD NOT get my brain to see it.  I called PH into the room.  He tried to help but I was just a lost case so said, "Heck with it, quilt no more.  Table top it is"  because I could lay them out on the table top and see it.  Go figure.

  When I made them I wanted the baskets to read blue because I like blue.  And because most of the backgrounds to the baskets were different from each other I wanted to do something different for the setting triangles and add a border.   This floral has been living in the stash for maybe 15 years and I could never cut it because it was too pretty.  Well, not anymore.  I looked in the mirror.  I had a birthday.  Nothing is out of bounds anymore. 

   So, here it is, whipped fresh off the machine and photographed.  Now it's ironed, folded and put with the butterflies waiting for basting.  I need a nap.

Oh, hey, did I post the butterflies?